Divisional Detective Inspector Hardcastle (Hardcastle’s Actress, 2007, etc.) is dismayed to find himself rusticated when Surrey’s V Division can’t cope with an aristocratic murder.
Sir Adrian Rivers, late of the Surrey Rifles, comes from military stock. So when he’s discovered shot to death in his bed, it’s no surprise that his two sons, Gerard and Ewart, are in France battling the Huns. It’s scarcely more startling that his butler and his chauffeur are also ex-soldiers. The joker in the pack is Muriel, Lady Rivers, a bookmaker’s daughter who met Sir Adrian at Epsom on Derby Day and seems unnaturally familiar with the servants. What irks Hardcastle even more than being sent out of London is his discovery that absolutely everyone at the Grange, Sir Adrian’s estate, had access to a firearm, including Gerard and Ewart, called home from the front for their father’s funeral. And when Hardcastle is irked, everyone suffers, as DS Marriott and PC Catto discover. Whether it’s off to Hurst Park to spy on Lady Rivers’s father, or to Wandsworth to interview an antiques dealer who’s been selling curios missing from the Grange, or out to Sir Adrian’s summer home in Colney Reach, it seems that the handiest tool in solving the case is the Bradshaw railway guide.
Hardcastle proves himself as irascible as ever in a case providing more humor than detection.